A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Dave Schroeder: NKY Chamber unveils Gateway for Growth welcoming plan, impact of immigration

In 2019, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce decided to take a leap of faith and apply for a Gateways for Growth Award from the from New American Economy and Welcoming America. Northern Kentucky was one of 14 communities in the nation to receive a grant – and with matching funds from Duke Energy – the journey began. The grant is designed to identify immigrant communities in the region and the contributions they make to the economy. The primary goal is to bring together workforce partners to address the regional skills gap and focus on ensuring that Northern Kentucky can support business growth through a strategic workforce effort.

Leisa Mulcahy, Vice President for Workforce at the NKY Chamber, took on the task of leading the initiative. A planning team of nine community leaders was pulled together which was followed by the development of a timeline and plan of action. Information gathering, research and community input was accomplished through a task force comprised of leaders in the business community, education, government, non-profits, healthcare, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, transportation, and members of the immigrant community. This task force met multiple times and identified opportunities and challenges encountered by immigrants living and working in our region.

As the initial work progressed, the staff of the New American Economy compiled a report on the impact the immigrant community has had and continues to have in Northern Kentucky. Presented to the community at a public meeting in July 2019 at the Kenton County Public Library’s Erlanger Branch, the report had several key findings, one being immigrants made up 77% of the positive migration to Northern Kentucky.

In other words, the immigrant population is growing in our region and in turn offers many opportunities for the business community for hiring, expanding diversity and developing a more international footprint.

Other important data demonstrated that immigrants comprise 7.7% of STEM workers in Northern Kentucky and that 33.1% of adult immigrants in the region hold a bachelor’s degree (compared to 27.9% of U.S. born citizens). Immigrants contributed $11.5 million to Medicare in 2017 and $45.5 million to social security.

The Gateway for Growth Planning Team and Taskforce have been working for months to develop a Northern Kentucky Welcoming plan that was recently released by the NKY Chamber. The plan focuses on three major strategies: (1) Building belonging through community connections; (2) Safety, health, and equitable access to community services; and (3) Workforce Development. This comprehensive approach includes goals, visions, and strategies. You can find the plan on the NKY Chamber’s website.

Likewise, the workforce portion of the plan has identified three areas of concentration: (1) Support students to attain education required for success in the workforce; (2) Establish and support inclusive employer policies and practices, and (3) To enhance access to career pathways and successful professional outcomes for immigrant workers. This roadmap will place Northern Kentucky in an excellent position to recover from the recent economic downturn due to COVID-19 and to grow our workforce to meet the needs of the 21st Century.

Dialogue with employers, focus groups, and immigrants themselves have resulted in a deeper understanding of our workforce in Northern Kentucky and how immigrants play an increasingly important role. Regions that are growing economically across the country are doing so with the assistance of immigrants. Our region now has a plan to accelerate diversity in our workforce, to heighten our national and international profile and to increase the number of residents who are ready to work and contribute to the growth of our community.

Dave Schroeder is director of the Kenton County Public Library. This story first appeared in the July/August issues of the NKY Business Journal.

See the full ‘Welcoming Plan’ here.

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  1. Sister Janet Bucher CDP says:

    This “Gateway for Growth” sounds like a wonderful process for our many Immigrants . I am sure you are aware of the number of Latino stores and restaurants in the Covington area. We all need to support them.
    The NKY Chamber and city also need to look at businesses, etc for Black presence. Our Black community who have been here are still discriminated against and lack the ability to get “GOOD” jobs here in Covington.
    Look at our “City Hall” and you find very little diversity. Our bright, well educated young Black People need to go elsewhere to get jobs using their education. Let’s work toward total diversity , living wages for all jobs and enough low-middle income housing to keep our young people here.

  2. Francis M. Maag,Cdp says:

    What good news of our local community and efforts to promote the welfare of immigrants. It is refreshing to hear of such good folks in our area working together for our fellow brothers and sisters seeking livelihood in our country. I shall pray for its continued success!

  3. J. Smith says:

    When addressing the issue of immigrants, are the immigrants legal or illegal? Come to our wonderful NKY legally and we gladly embrace the individuals as part of our community. If illegal immigrants come to NKY, then they must make every effort to register and become legal residents. Come to NKY seeking a better life come legally.

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